Making Study Abroad More Inclusive: The Development Stage

How does curriculum development and location relate to making study abroad more inclusive? Does diversifying study abroad—who gets to have this transformative experience and to where—happen at the program development stage? A recent Insight Into Diversity article by Andrew Gordon addresses curriculum and location and raises further questions. Namely, if the mission is to make this transformative, experiential learning tool available to students of all gender, race, and class backgrounds, should we be putting more emphasis on the development phase and perhaps less on marketing materials and positions awkwardly named “Director, Relations with Minority Sending Institutions"? (I’ll discuss this type of position and its name in a future post).  

As covered in the previous article based on Dr. Woolfe's (CAPA) writing on the Roma, the study of diaspora can open up new and important terrain in terms of cross-cultural navigation and also human rights awareness. The development stage, then, is one that can look towards diversifying student enrollment by featuring at least the option for theme-based study around sensibilities that students—and not necessarily the ones empowered by colonial legacies—can explore by living and observing and comparing.

Andrew Gordon's article (point 4) also draws an important conclusion on staffing that the Blue Sage "Study Abroad: A Guide for Program Developers" e-book will also cover: it is very important to have an inclusive staff trained in working with diverse groups of students and to have clinically-trained bilingual counselors on-call who understand that not all students "study abroad" in the same way. The experience is one that includes being "read" in new ways and entering different (yet similar) colonial and neo-colonial power structures.

Scholarships, of course, are one of the most effective ways of overcoming cost boundaries. And placement into jobs and internships (post study abroad, at the re-entry phase) is just as important. Students are more willing to take a financial risk when they see it improves the possibility of job placement, which is why the Blue Sage development work includes post-study abroad placement into organizations (for paid internships and jobs) that value the intercultural and language development achieved through study abroad programs.

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